Before I got pregnant with R, when Chris and I were just beginning to talk about potentially creating her, I knew that my number one priority would have to be getting really good at handling stress. I had heard somewhere that having a baby is like someone dropping a bomb on your home, and that disturbing analogy had buried itself in mind.
I knew the kind of mother and partner I wanted to be, knew that I wanted to create a calm and nurturing home for my little family, and knew that none of that would happen if I was an anxious and overwhelmed mess. So I visualized perfection and thought positive thoughts. I read all the books, listened to hours of podcasts, and practiced stress-relieving techniques. I stocked my mental library with all the knowledge I could get my hands on and thought I was ready,
All I can say is that I dreamed a good dream, but bummer that it didn't match reality. Eventually, R came along, a beautiful little baby nothing like the exploding bomb I was expecting, and I was elated. The first two weeks were pretty calm. Like a lot of newborns, she slept most of the time, which gave me the chance to rest, take showers, cook good food, and spend time with Chris.
I would go so far as to say that I even felt better than before she was born. I had energy, felt grounded, was well nourished, and was pretty proud of myself for keeping my relationship with Chris strong. I was everything I had hoped I would be in this new role. I really did have it in the bag.
And then those early weeks passed, and things changed. R began having digestive problems, I couldn't get breastfeeding to go as I had envisioned, and there was a noticeable shortage of naps. Around that same time, I can only assume that those initial post-partum happy hormones started wearing off because my days just didn't feel as wonderful as before.
I started getting snappy. I felt defensive at the most innocuous comments. Sometimes I even got a little mad. I was shocked. What about all of that wisdom I had crammed in my head, all of those Buddhist teachings I knew about not taking things personally, the importance of equanimity, and letting go of expectations? I was really letting myself down.
Although the worst of it passed after those first early months, I still struggle with those same inclinations to take offense at almost nothing at all, and I am really good at twisting things into an all-out attack on my ability as a mother. The only difference is that I'm a little better about refraining from reaction. Motherhood has shoved my ego to the front lines and things seem like a do-or-die situation when really it's just Chris asking if I've burped R because her stomach feels gassy. No big deal, but it sure feels like one in the moment.
I've come to realize is that nothing in the whole world can prepare you for motherhood. I thought I could hoard knowledge and wisdom like an end-of-the-world prepper and it would save me from the uncomfortable stresses, but that's not the case. There's no amount of mental preparation that can do that.
Motherhood is messy and complicated, but that doesn't mean things are going in the wrong direction. I like to think it means things are going in the right direction because when things are going at all it means we are alive and living life; a life so big that it includes all kinds of people and experiences and emotions.
Even though I believe this is true, it doesn't really make it any easier when the shit is hitting the ceiling. It sucks just the same, and unless I have some solid tools to assist me through whatever life is hurling, at this point in my life, I'm going to be a reactive mess. I could easily feel terrible about this, like a human failure, but I try hard to graciously accept what is. No point in beating myself up for my unfortunate human flaws, but that doesn’t mean I shouldn’t take steps to remedy the problem.
That’s why I love me Buddhism. Nothing else has ever come close to giving me mental tools that actually work. There are a lot of different teachings that are all useful and awesome, but for me nothing comes close to the Lojong Mind Training Slogans. Such an awesome name and so very ninja-like.
Anyhow, they are a long list of mini mantras that you memorize and then use like little swords to cut through the mental crap swirling around in your head. I think there are close to 60 of them altogether, and if you’re super interested in them Pema Chodron has a whole book on them, which you can get here.
I have my personal favorites, and they’re listed below. 60 are just too many for me to remember, so I’ve picked out my favorites that relate to my daily personal struggles. I’m telling you, they work! Pick on or two at first and use them throughout the day when you feel yourself getting stuck, and watch stupid mind crap fall away. It’s kind of like magic.
Lojong Mind Trainings
*In all activities, train with slogans.
*Be grateful to everyone (the good and the bad)
*Don’t be so predictable (Don’t do the habitual thing)
*Whatever you meet unexpectedly, join with meditation.
*Always maintain a joyful mind.
*Don’t ponder others.
*Always meditate on whatever provokes resentment.
*Don’t be swayed by external circumstances.
Do any of these resonate with you? What are your personal favorites, and why? Let me know in the comments below :)
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